April Coppini is a Portland-based artist whose enduring subject is wild animals. She is known for her large, gestural charcoal drawings of foxes, deer, jackrabbits, moths and bees. Coppini is renowned for being able to breathe life into her charcoal depictions of the wild inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. Using only black charcoal and white paper, she makes images that are expressive, engaging and keenly observed in terms of their lifelike detail. She executes her drawings in a direct and physical way. Yet she never loses sight of the fragile beauty of the creatures she depicts. Coppini enables her viewers to experience the beauty of animals while at the same time asking them to be mindful of the need to protect the habitats that ensure their survival.
Desert Reflections: Water Shapes the West weaves together science, history, art and contemporary issues to explore the role of water in the region’s past, present and future.
By connecting visitors to water and its management through the lens of three different basins in the region — the Mid-Columbia River Basin, Great Salt Lake Basin and Klamath Basin — the exhibit will illuminate how water has shaped the High Desert’s natural, cultural and geological history and explore how it features prominently in contemporary issues such as resource consumption, Indigenous sovereignty and climate change.
In addition to the discussion of the complexities of water management, Desert Reflections will connect visitors to the significance of water through visual art, music and spoken word performances. The High Desert Museum commissioned artwork from four Pacific Northwest artists for the exhibition, which also involved a field trip into the desert with experts in order to spark discussion and inspiration for the pieces.
The navigational feats performed by wildlife—whether as part of their daily, local activities or long-distance migrations—are arguably some of the natural world’s most awe-inspiring phenomena. The tiny rufous hummingbird, for example, deftly finds its way from wintering grounds in Mexico and the southern United States to its breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
This new, interactive exhibition explores how such remarkable journeys are possible. Unlike us, other animals don’t have the benefit of maps and compasses, or do they? While many mysteries remain, scientists are steadily uncovering the secrets of navigation. Their findings suggest that different species are equipped with internal compass senses, intricate mental maps and other adaptations that enable them to stay on track. These mechanisms tell birds, mammals, fish and insects where they are and in which direction they are heading, even as they navigate the most testing terrains or places they have never seen before.
Human actions create some further challenges for animal navigators. For example, lights can obscure the night sky and completely disorient birds and other species. Thankfully, as we learn more about how animals navigate and how we are impacting their behavior, we also become better equipped to take effective conservation actions. This knowledge helps us to understand our own species, too, and how we might navigate using nature’s clues. Come and find out how in “Animal Journeys: Navigating in Nature.”
By Donald M. Kerr Curator of Natural History Louise Shirley